Faced with the abuses in the area of land development, China is now taking stiff measures to save its land resources, which are relatively scarce when compared to the country's large population.
Under the central government's new policies, the cost of land use will be raised, and the market system is to play a decisive role in allocating land.
Officials from the Ministry of Land and Resources say the government is set to reform the old land allocation system that features unplanned and low efficient use of the resources.
Meanwhile, they say, the market system will play a central role in the process, and commercial businesses will have to pay for use of land. And industrial enterprises will have to get the land they need through public tender or auction, instead of the previous free offers from local governments.
Another focus of the reform is to put "non-functioning land" resources back onto the market. "Non-functioning land" is usually that which has been allocated for projects that turned out to be unsuccessful, with the lands allocated being abandoned.
Vice minister of land and resources Yuan Xiaosu explains, "To revitalize the non-functioning land resources is an important aspect of saving land. Although there are major difficulties involved, it has a big potential to contribute to our endeavour to save land resources."
Now local governments have begun to tighten their control over abuses of land. In some economically developed regions in the east, the previous free use of lands is no longer an incentive for investors, and businesses in small industrial zones are being subsumed into larger ones that provide standard workshops.
Sun Weiping is an official with the Wuxi Municipal government in the eastern province of Jiangsu.
"With these measures, all the enterprises have moved to the city-level industrial zone with standard workshops. And this saves more than 2 thirds of the previous land," Sun said.
Over the past decade, use of land has been out of control in many places of the country. During this period, land for construction projects in the 41 biggest cities increased by more than 50 percent.
This, plus the impact of natural disasters and the government policy of returning lands to forestation, means that the area of China's farming land has kept shrinking; something which is a serious threat to China's grain security and sustainable development.
(CRI June 27, 2005)